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Choosing a bow

This section is aimed at new club members who have completed a beginners course.  We suggest you take your time over buying a bow - our beginners bows are normally available for a few weeks after the course ends, plus, we have hire bows that will allow you to progress a bit further and build up your technique and knowledge of what bow style you might want to concentrate on.  Please speak to the Equipment Officer if interested.  Most importantly, speak to club members about their bows and get as much advice as possible.

There are many different bow styles available, you may have an idea what you want to shoot, and you may not.  The club is affiliated to AGB and thus follows the AGB bowstyle rules, which are (very briefly):

  • Compound:  A compound bow limited to 60lb maximum draw weight, can be shot off the fingers (compound barebow) or with a release aid. Multi-pin sights are not allowed in competitions, or any laser targeting. Any arrows may be used

  • (Olympic) Recurve: A recurve bow, with metal riser, shot off the fingers with a tab. May have standard sight, pressure button, clicker, stabilisers. No magnifiers or other sight aids are allowed in competition. Any arrows may be used.

  • Barebow: A recurve bow, normally metal riser, shot off the fingers with a tab. May have pressure button and weights, but unstrung bow must fit through a 12.2cm ring (4 & 13/16"). No clickers or other aids allowed.  Any arrows may be used.  String walking is allowed.

  • Traditional bow: A recurve bow, where the riser must be partially made of wood, shot off the fingers with a tab. Only a plastic arrow rest is allowed (or can be shot off shelf). No sights. No clickers. No add-on weights allowed. Any arrows may be used.  String walking is not allowed (but face walking is permitted).

  • Flatbow (or American Flatbow):  A single piece wooden non-recurve bow (limbs are in simple arc when strung) with flat profile limbs, shot off the fingers with a tab. No sights. No clickers. Arrows must be shot off shelf, and must be made of wood (bamboo is not wood!).  Bows can be manufactured with internal weights, but weights cannot be added.  String walking or face walking is not permitted.

  • Longbow (or English Longbow): A single piece wooden bow with a D shaped cross section, shot off the fingers. Nothing extra, pure Robin Hood type shooting.  Arrows must be made of wood (bamboo is not wood). String walking or face walking is not permitted.

  • Asiatic:  A short, horse bow style bow.  Can be shot off fingers with a tab or by using a thumb ring.  Nothing extra. Arrows are typically made of wood for more traditional shooting style events, such as 'Roving', but carbon, or carbon composite, arrows are permitted at some events.

Club Hire Bows

We have a limited number of hire bows - which are a step up from the wooden beginners bows, for instance - metal risers (handles), higher poundage limbs, and better arrows.  We do recommend that you buy your own finger tab (e.g. Avalon classic tab).

Hire bows:

  • Typically hired for up to 6months, with a maximum hire of 1 year

  • Returnable deposit £75 providing all equipment comes back to us

  • Hire fee £5 per month, ideally paid by standing order


Buying your own bow

When you are ready to purchase your own bow, the first consideration is of course the bow style that you want to shoot.


However, for all styles, the most important thing to remember is NOT to ‘over bow’ yourself – i.e. don’t buy a heavy bow assuming you’ll grow into it, this is the worst possible thing to do. As you struggle with the weight, you’ll struggle with your form and find it very difficult to correct issues.  Far better to use a lighter bow and get your form right, before moving up in bow or limb weight.  For reference, a 20lb bow can comfortably shoot out to 50-60 yards (45-55metres) without issue. 100yard barebow 252s awards have been known to be shot with bows under 30lb in draw weight, so you really do not need to go out and buy a heavy poundage bow. There are more benefits, and easy points to be scored, from getting your form right to start with, than there are to buying a high poundage bow, or limbs.

Rule 1:  Get some advice from experienced archers, club coaches, or from a reputable shop.

The internet can be useful for info, but you'll often find conflicting advice and remember, just because it's online doesn't make it true. You will want to buy a bow that will last you for a few years, not a few months.

Rule 2:  Set a budget.

Being sensible, a reasonable 1st bow can be bought for around £200 (perhaps a bit more for compound), however, depending on bow style you will need to budget for other items, as discussed below.  Beware of beginner’s kits, which can be bought quite cheaply.   Rough prices for a set of half decent equipment, which you will upgrade over time:

  • Recurve:£350

  • Compound: £400

  • Flatbow:£250

  • Longbow: £300


Rule 3: Try before you buy. Compounds are generally fixed in draw weight and draw length, so don't usually offer quite the same levels of adjustment as a recurve. You may get 6-10lb adjustment in a more expensive compound bow and may be able to replace the limbs, but your first bow may have no adjustment.

Longbows and flatbows are also fixed! It may be advisable to stick with a recurve until your draw length and technique has settled a bit.

Recurves are perhaps the easiest; buy a good riser and the limbs can be changed as required.

Ideally go to a reputable shop and listen to the advice and get the bow set up properly for you and shoot it. Make sure you are comfortable with it.

And if it's a 2nd hand bow, take someone who knows about them with you.


Rule 4:  Repeated, because this so important!  Don't be a hero with big draw weights.  You might be able to draw the bow a few times, but think about whether you could do the same after 100, or more, arrows.  Some rounds you might choose to shoot are 144 arrows!!!  So, don't think lower draw weights are just for beginners courses, it allows you to develop good form without fighting the bow, or worse, injuring yourself. 


Rule 5: Enjoy yourself, shoot lots, and improve.


Rule 6: Accept that you will spend more over the coming months and years.  There will always be new toys to get.

Rule 7: Perhaps the most important rule of all.  Never ever, ever, tell your other-half the true value how much of you spend on archery equipment. What gets spent in archery club, stays in archery club.  It only takes one person to slip up and we're all for the high jump.



What you will be buying



Longbow / Flatbow / Horsebow(Asiatic):  Clearly, these are one piece, so don’t over bow. You can always stick with recurve or barebow until your form and strength allow you to buy a heavier bow.

Compound:  Do your research, speak to other compound archers at the club, spend what you can on the bow, and remember you can upgrade other parts as you go.

Recurve:  Spend what you can on the riser and if possible get a good quality sight, these will last you a long time.  As a minimum, buy a riser with adjustments either side of the limb pocket. The cheapest models do not have these.  Go for a riser with ILF (International Limb Fittings) limb fittings.

Recurve Barebow:  There are specialist risers for barebow.  Probably a good idea to use a standard riser as a first barebow, to work out how you want your weight distribution, before buying a more expensive riser.

Traditional:  Typically a wooden riser that doesn't look that dissimilar to a wooden barebow but without weights or pressure button, often shot without an arrow rest.

Compound additional items

Release aid (£100)
Buy a reasonable one and it will last you a long time. There are many different types of release aid, but for your first one go for a thumb trigger, or possibly a wrist release which is triggered using your index finger. 


Do not use a back tension or hinge release aid as your first release aid.  These are better left for when you have good and consistent shooting form, and if you don’t know what you’re doing can fire unintentionally.  Which for the avoidance of doubt is a very bad thing.

Sight/Scope/Peep sight (£60+)
The sight attaches to the bow (riser) and provides the archer with an aiming reference point.  Sights for compound usually compromise of a mounting block that attaches to the bow, a metal or carbon extension bar, and an elevation bar to adjust the vertical position of the reference point (sight pin).

For compound bows most use a scope rather than a simple sight pin.  This is a housing which contains a magnifying lens to view the target. The amount of magnification is a personal choice, but many scopes will come with a 4x lens which can be changed if you prefer more/less magnification.

Note that the sight will not include a scope which is usually bought separately, so you will need to budget for both.

Due to the added weight of a lensed scope and the extra ‘oomph’ that a compound shoots with, compound sights are usually built with stronger (and heavier) materials.  So, it is important to get the right sight for the style of shooting you prefer. i.e. don’t use a recurve sight on a compound bow. It may work initially, but most likely it will soon rattle itself loose (or break into pieces).

For compound, a peep sight is also used.  The peep sight is a small plastic or metal insert that sits in the bow string which has a hole in it.  It allows you to look through the string at full draw to see your sight and target for aiming.  They are relatively inexpensive for a basic one, though spending a few pounds more often gets a peep sight that allows you to screw-in inserts to change the peep sight size or even add a lensed insert.

If you are a glasses wearer, it may be better to spend the extra on a peep sight that allows this.  Often glasses wearers suffer a blurred image as a result of the lens in the scope working with the lens in the glasses.  Adding a peep sight lens (called a clarifier) may help sharpen up the image.

Arrow rest/Launcher (£40+)

Arrow rests for compounds are different to those used on recurve.  The two main types are blade rest (often called a launcher) and a drop-away rest. The blade/launcher type uses a forked spring steel blade (similar in shape to a lizards tongue) to rest the arrow on.  The tension (springiness) of the blade is usually adjustable so it can be set up for the type (size/weight) of arrow you are shooting.

The drop-away rest does exactly as it says, it drops away.  This is a mechanical rest that raises during the drawing of the bow to hold the arrow in the correct position, this moves out of the way during the release so as not to interfere with the flight of the arrow.

For a compound, it is recommended to start with a blade/launcher.  They are much simpler to set up and there is less to go wrong with them.

Recurve additional items

Limbs (£60+)
Start light, start cheap, £60 limbs under 30lb can take you a long way.  Some shops do limb swaps, but you can buy/sell online quite easily. Most low end limbs are partially made of wood.  They can be excellent, but remember to pack your bow away after each use, as just like a wooden bow, they can start to take the shape of the strung bow, which means they can lose their power if left strung for long periods of time.

Sight (£60+)

Don't bother with the cheapest sights, start at around £60 - either the Avalon Tec X, or Decut, at this price range are good mid range sights that should last you a good time.

Tab (recurve/flatbow/longbow £10 - £50+)
Buy a reasonable one, but you’ll probably need to play with a few different styles.  If you shoot 2 under, then make sure the finger separation works (at full draw, ensure the separator keeps your fingers away from the arrow).  Cut any excess material away.

Sizing - see the helper here - make sure you print this as actual size! Fivics Tab Size guide


Finger/wrist sling (Also a good idea for compound)
These are a good addition and can be added quite early to allow you to learn to not grip the bow.  Alternatively a very cheap option is to use an old shoe lace, an experienced archer or a coach can show you how to tie one.


Pressure button/clicker/rest (£40+)
Not really essential to start with, better to get your form right before adding these. There is nothing wrong with a Hoyt Super Rest to get you started. Many coaches advocate starting and staying with a plastic rest, then add pressure button to give you fine tuning once your groups are consistent and are getting smaller/tighter.  Add a clicker only when your draw length and form has settled down, at which point switching to a metal rest works (as the clicker stops the arrow sliding off the rest). Shibuya button and rest kit is a good idea and good value for around £60 for a good quality button and rest.

Long rod/side bars (£50+)
Adding these too early can hide problems with your form.  See if you can borrow some to try before you buy.  They add balance, but also weight to the bow, so be careful that you don’t go too heavy too soon.  You can shoot with a long rod for a while (even years) before adding side bars.


All bows

Arrows (£60+)
Barebow, Compound, Recurve, and even Traditional:  Start with some aluminium arrows – as you change limbs, or increase poundage, and your form changes, you’ll need to change arrows, so don’t start with expensive ones, as you’ll likely be buying new ones as your poundage goes up. You only really need to move to composite (Aluminium & Carbon) arrows when you get serious or when you start to need the lighter arrows to achieve longer distances.


Others:  Buy wooden arrows that are correct for your bow weight!


Never shoot a wooden arrow with a compound bow, it could cause the arrow to break on release and cause serious injury.

Don’t be tempted with all carbon arrows - some venues and competitions won’t let you shoot them, as they are hard to find with a metal detector.


When choosing arrows it is important to select arrows of the correct spine (stiffness) for the style, draw weight and draw length you're shooting.  A reputable shop will be able to advise you in more detail, but to get an idea of the ‘correct spine’ arrows you need, you can often refer to manufacturer spine charts or arrow selector charts, the Easton one can be found here or the Skylon one can be found here.  These allow you to look up, based on you bows draw weight and your draw length, the best arrow spine for you.  Lots of archery shops will supply arrows in sets of 8 or 12.  A set of 8 is plenty for your first set.  This allows you to be able to shoot 6 arrow ends and have a couple of spares in case you lose or damage an arrow.


One important thing to remember when getting your first set of arrows is that they should be 2” longer than your draw length.  This ensures you don’t over draw the arrow past the arrow rest/launcher which can cause issues or even serious injury.  Also, you will find that your draw length increases a bit over time, as you improve your form.



You’ll also need:

  • A bracer (often called an arm guard)

  • A quiver (you may prefer a field quiver, rather than a target quiver, ask someone to show you the difference)

  • Arrow puller

  • Bow stand (you won’t want to put your shiny new bow on the floor)

  • Pocket notebook (to record your bow setup, sight marks, shopping lists)

  • Bow bag/case

  • Some new clothes - for outdoor shooting, you'll need base layers, and close fitting outer clothing to avoid catching the bow or string when shooting

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